Dinner at Público:
Let’s Get This Fiesta Started
Bearing in mind Sweden’s reputation as an inquisitive, well-travelled nation with a taste for exotic flavours, it is surprising how much of a blind spot the cuisines of South America are to most of us. Sure, we know that Argentina is the place to go for large slabs of meat, and that Peru makes a mean ceviche (a dish most of us have tried in recent years, but with a name the majority still don’t know how to pronounce). But that is where our knowledge about the continent’s cuisine stops. Undoubtedly the saddest perception of South American cooking is that of Mexican food, which, to many of us, is still ground beef cooked with a spice mix straight out of a paper sachet, served in a tooth-shatteringly stale taco shell, topped with vegetables, grated cheese (out of yet another bag), salsa out of a jar and ready-made guacamole-style dip (which contains no more than 1,5 percent avocado – check the label if you don’t believe me). “White trash cooking” is how my friends in the Americas quite harshly refer to this type of cooking.
These last few years have seen development in terms of South American restaurants in Stockholm. Some are clearly more authentic than others, and one of the city’s latest is Público, run by Melker Andersson and Danyel Couet, two of the more renowned restaurateurs around. Disregarding the fact that the folks over at Público have misnamed ‘Peruvian’ as ‘Peruan’, it is a sensible decision to describe the menu as “influenced by the Peruan and Mexican kitchen”. With that said, the dining experience at Público is nevertheless a thrilling and original one, as it aims to merge the concept of a restaurant with the notion of a nightclub.
After having been greeted by a gaggle of hospitable hostesses, I am swiftly ushered into the large, terracotta-coloured space furnished with dark wooden tables, comfy upholstered chairs and lots of exotic greenery. An 18-meter long pisco and ceviche bar caters to those after a snappier meal, while parties seated at the tables are sectioned off by table dividers reminiscent of the grid-like pattern, found in Catholic confession booths.
Having studied the extensive list of ceviches, tacos and mains over a deliciously smoky Mez Mule Número Uno (146 kronor) (a mezcal, cucumber, passion fruit and ginger beer cocktail served in a jar), I opt for a Los Amigos menu (650 kronor), featuring all the head chef’s current favourite dishes. I throw in a beverage menu (395 kronor) for good measure.
A long sequence of small yet tremendously colourful and flavour-saturated dishes follow, all meant to be shared with the rest of the party. A fjord salmon ceviche prepared with lime, coconut and coriander offers a delicate opening, followed by a second ceviche consisting of thinly sliced scallops with horseradish, yuzu and chulpe – roasted maize kernels, a very popular snack in Peru. The combination of raw slivers of Wagyu beef and small dollops of truffle mayonnaise is unbeatable.
Next, a platter of small tacos is brought in. The winning Wagyu-truffle flavour combo continues in a soft tortilla, complimented by forest mushrooms and the mild dried chilli pepper ancho. The roast lamb, served with goat’s cheese, chimichurri and tomato, has a slight bitterness to it, as homemade corn tortillas usually acquire a hint of bitterness. The tuna, pineapple, chilli and guacamole taco is served in a crisp shell and offers a jolt of energy to the taste buds.
The Pescado Estilo Público – chunks of sautéed sea bass served in a brilliant Ají Amarillo sauce with curiously chewy nuggets of sun-dried potatoes – is quite intriguing. The Barbacoa De Cerdo is made up of slices of Secreto Iberico – the cut of meat which comes from between the shoulder blade and the loin of the prized Iberian pig – a fresh Pico de Gallo salsa and a mole poblano sauce that means business. If it weren’t for the other guests in the restaurant, I would probably lick the plate clean. The wine pairing, a Santeney pinot noir, is a bit of a surprise. Somehow most of the beverage pairings – except for the Estrella beer that was served with the tacos – aren’t quite on par with the flavours in the dishes, leaving me feeling let down by the entire beverage menu.
As the evening turns into night, Público makes the transformation from restaurant to nightclub. The serving of my Flan dessert – an orange and ginger crème caramel, paired with a South African botrytis wine – coincides with the dimming of the lights and the jacking up the volume of the music.
At Público, the meal may be over, but the night is still young.
08 505 244 14